While Alex was is in Copenhagen riding bikes and eating delicious meats, I’m in Macon doing a solo Meatless Monday. One silver lining of Alex’s absence (hey, I have to find something positive, right?) is that I can utilize one of my favorite ingredients that he doesn’t like: eggplant. Neither of us is a picky eater, but each of us has a short list of no-gos, and one of his is eggplant. I requested one in my CSA box for this week, and I’m so happy with the results of my eggplant caponata.
Caponata is a Sicilian dish that’s essentially a simmered vegetable spread that can be eaten as a dip, spread, or pasta sauce. It almost always features eggplant, onions, and tomatoes, some kind of salty element (olives, capers, etc.), some sweetness (sugar), and a little sour (vinegar, brine). Many variations exist, and like any pasta sauce, are especially helpful at the “kitchen sink” effect: throwing in veggies that need to be used up. My caponata included eggplant, onion, green bell pepper, carrots, mushrooms, red tomatoes, and green tomatoes, but you could sub in or out these vegetables for fennel, celery, okra, other mild peppers, tomatillos, zucchini, squash, etc.
Eggplant has many feathers in its cap, but a big perk of having it on a Meatless Monday is that it has such a meaty consistency. While eggplant has little nutritional value, it’s a great replacement for meat in heavier dishes and its dense consistency stands up to robust flavor. This recipe is very easy–most of the labor is in chopping vegetables, a secret favorite of mine–and the heavy-bottomed pot and olive oil just does all of the work for you.
One of my favorite things about this recipe is its local appeal. I got the gorgeous egglant, red and green tomatoes, and purple basil from The Dirt Farmers CSA and the ciabatta, buratta, and other pantry items from our awesome urban market, Ocmulgee Traders. Shopping local feels (and tastes) so good!
The caponata is the kind of thing that’s delicious the day of, but is even more tasty after it’s refrigerated for a day or two. I can’t wait to make an excuse to eat it again! Tonight, it was divine spread on some crusty, toasted ciabatta with creamy, dreamy buratta cheese. Buratta is so divine; it’s like fresh mozzarella on the outside and runny and creamy on the inside. I topped these with some pretty purple basil, salt, and cracked pepper. Somehow my two pieces disappeared very quickly!
1/3 cup olive oil
1 medium eggplant, diced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 small green bell pepper, diced
2 carrots, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 medium tomatoes or 8-10 small tomatoes, large diced
1/2 cup canned mushrooms
1/2 cup green olives, chopped
6 oz. tomato paste
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add eggplant, carrots, onion, bell pepper, garlic, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Cook for about five minutes, add the tomatoes, then cook for about five more minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, reduce the heat to low, and cook for about 30 more minutes.
Use as a spread, dip, or pasta sauce.